My Life in Turkey

By: Ayak (Linda Kaya) - Also see author's expat blog listing

Moving to another country is a huge risk. But isn't that what life is all about? Taking risks?

Life is short and I didn't want to spend the rest of mine wondering "what if?"

I met my Turkish husband in Gocek. I was on a last-minute decision holiday for one week with two work colleagues. I was at the end of an unhappy marriage, and I certainly wasn't looking for another one! I intended to sit in the sun with a glass of wine and read..just relax away from my stressful job and personal life.

We chatted with the help of a dictionary. He had just a few words of English and my Turkish was non-existent. He wasn't the typical Turkish love-rat that we've all read about. He wasn't the handsome romeo type. (He won't mind me saying that). He was overweight, a bit scruffy, and very down to earth. He did have lovely eyes though.

This wasn't a holiday romance, but a friendship with someone who was honest and respectful, and when I returned to England, we kept in touch.

When I made the decision to move here, it was a very difficult one. I would have to leave my family, my home, my friends. I was no spring chicken. I was middle-aged and my future husband was 20 years younger.

With lots of to-ing and fro-ing during the first year, I finally settled into life here.

We have led a kind of nomadic existence. Our first home was in Gumusluk in the winter in a summer rental apartment that leaked water everywhere. No heating or hot water. One rusty fridge, and one saucepan and a small gas bottle to cook on. But the surroundings were beautiful. Orange groves, bouganvillea, and peace and quiet.

We moved on to Turgutreis several months later, where we eventually married. My husband had also been married before, and we both had grown-up children. We had quite a lot in common.

From then on we have moved around this beautiful country. All along the south coast from Bodrum to Alanya. We also lived in Cappadocia for almost four years, firstly in Avanos and then in Goreme.

We have now been married for 14 years and have moved house 15 times..

I have struggled with the language. I do so envy those expats who after a short time, become fluent in Turkish. I have always found languages difficult. It's as if my brain just shuts off at the sight and sound of a foreign word. But I do try, and I now know enough to make myself understood, and to understand some of what is being said to me.

The Turkish people are so warm and welcoming and they never make you feel embarrassed if you use the wrong words. Quite the opposite...they smile and encourage you, and tell you that your Turkish is very good, when you know it's utter rubbish.

And this is one of the biggest reasons for my love of this country. The people. The culture is so different. They are very family oriented, something that seems to be lacking in other cultures these days. They can at first appear to be very nosy and intrusive, but they are just genuinely interested. They are so kind and helpful that it's easy to be suspicious and think that they have an ulterior motive. On the whole, they don't. Most Turks will go the extra mile to help you out of any difficult situation, and expect nothing in return.

For a foreigner marrying into a Turkish family, life can be quite different to your experiences in your home country. Although many Turks have become more westernised in their outlook, this is still a pretty male-dominated society. It's still believed in many families that men are the head of the household, and the woman's role is to do everything to make her husband's life comfortable. It can be quite hard for an independent foreign woman to adjust to this. Being expected to cook, clean and wait on your husband can be difficult, if not impossible, to live with. Mothers-in-law can also be a bit of a problem. They raise their sons to be dominant and their daughters to serve. They will expect the same of their daughters-in-law.

If you live in close proximity to your Turkish family, this can prove quite difficult, and many mixed marriages have failed, because of this.

We have had difficulties in our marriage from time to time, but this has mostly been due to misunderstandings with language. My husband now speaks fluent English, but there will always be times when the spoken word can be misinterpreted.

We have been fortunate in that we have never lived near my Turkish family, so haven't seen much of them over the years, so there has been very little interference by them. Although, since we moved to our current home, we have seen a little more of them, and my father-in-law and I don't really see eye to eye. Thankfully my husband isn't a typical dominant Turkish man, and will always support me in any argument!

If anyone asked me now for advice on relocating to Turkey, I would tell them to go with an open mind. Be prepared for the culture shock, but embrace and enjoy it. Don't go with the idea that it is going to be one long holiday. Try not to stick within expat groups, but get to know the people of this country. Try to integrate as fully as will make some wonderful friends, and you will be accepted and liked for making the effort.

There are obstacles to be overcome. Resident permits, health cover, etc, have to be dealt with and bureaucracy here can be slow and tedious. Don't get impatient. Just go with the flow. If you find yourself waiting for hours for some piece of important paperwork, just relax and enjoy the endless glasses of tea that will be provided wherever you go!

It's a slower pace of life...enjoy it.

After years of moving around from town to tourist area, just over 3 years ago my husband and I settled in a traditional Turkish farming village, in a house given to us by my father-in-law. This has been a totally different experience for me. It means that I spend a great deal of my time alone while my husband goes away to find work. It wouldn't suit everyone, and even though it can be lonely at times, I am mostly happy with my own company. My neighbours are great, and I enjoy the sounds of donkeys, cows, sheep and chickens. The view from our house is to die for....fields and mountains as far as the eye can see.

This is my life. It's been quite a journey, with plenty of ups and downs, but one I don't regret for one minute.

About the author:

I moved to Turkey from England in 1998 and married my Turkish husband in 1999. We have lived in different areas of Turkey. In fact we have moved 15 times to date
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Contest Comments » There are 15 comments

Kelloggsville wrote 9 years ago:

I have read Ayak's blog for a very long time, her writing just flows. She doesn't try to get clever or witty, she just tells it as it is. This clear window to her life is so interesting and sometimes very funny, sometimes very poignant. Her writing has a natural flow, A Bill Brysonesque feel to it. Like it's just something she does without great effort. Also, I know if I turned up on her doorstep there would be a cup of tea and a chair straight away and she would do the same for you all (just don't all turn up at once!).

Noreen Hegarty wrote 9 years ago:

Ayak is wonderful! She is the kind of person you would like as a best friend. She is so thoughtful and so sensitive. I look in at her blog every week and love to catch up with the events in her life and the life in that beautiful Turkish village. Thanks Ayak for transporting me to such a beautiful place.

Ayak (Linda Kaya) wrote 9 years ago:

I just wanted to say a massive thankyou to all of you. I am overwhelmed by your lovely comments. I never expected this response and it makes me very happy to have got to know you all through my blog. Thankyou xxx

Jacqui King wrote 9 years ago:

I loved reading Ayak's very personal account of her life in Turkey and how she came to be there. Her story is told in such an honest and heartfelt way, that you almost feel you know her - that she is a friend. Her road to settling in Turkey has not been the easiest one to travel, and I greatly admire the tenacity she has shown in making a life there. As she says of her life in her own words "one I don't regret for one minute" and you can't get any better than that.

Janice Whelan wrote 9 years ago:

Ayak writes so beautifully and honestly about the life she has chosen for herself. Her ability to deal with difficulties she has faced during her time in Turkey has been so impressive. Her good common sense and real understanding of the differences in the 2 cultures of which she is a part enables her to observe life,comment on it, and be a real part of it aswell. I love reading what Ayak has to say about her life in Turkey.

Helen Devries wrote 9 years ago:

It's so refreshing to have an honest account of the experience of moving to a different culture...and from the point of view of one settling there for other reasons than an employment posting. Ayak has had to do it on her own...with the help of her husband....and she doesn't brush over the problems...nor does she stint on enjoying the pleasures. I had Turkish friends...true France and they are just as Ayak describes the people she has met. They take going the extra mile for granted. A positive and very realistic take on life in a different land.

Elizabeth Stephen wrote 9 years ago:

What a lovely story of a foreigner settling and appreciating a different country and culture with an open mind. This is such a beautifully crafted read and each short paragraph makes the reader keen to read on- caught up in the moment and savouring the different lifestyle. Having a holiday home in Turkey I understand all that is written and I agree wholeheartedly with Ayak- I found my Turkish friends (when I was without my husband on holiday)so possessive and overbearing until I realised they were worried for me being on my own and were very caring. Well done, Ayak, a lovely representation of a different culture.

Perpetua wrote 9 years ago:

This is a beautifully-written account of the real ups and downs of life as an immigrant to a very different country. I know from her blog that Ayak never skims over the difficulties and misunderstandings that can arise from a clash of cultures, but her love of, and deep respect for, the Turkish people shines from every line of this piece and her blog posts too. Ayak demonstrates,both in her writing and in her life, that to move successfully to another country and become a true part of a community there, we have to approach the differences with an open mind and heart, and a willingness to accept that other ways of doing things are equally as valid as the ones we are used to. A wonderful piece of writing from a fine and deeply observant writer.

Istanbul's Stranger wrote 9 years ago:

I love the part about how you guys met. It sounds like you found one of the good men in this world, and you've carved out a fine space for yourselves. Thanks for telling this story.

Annie Taylor wrote 9 years ago:

It's lovely to hear more detail about Ayak's life. I do enjoy her blog and her wonderful stories of daily life in Turkey. She has such an open and honest approach to what she writes, that you instinctively knows she's a lovely person and someone you'd like to know better. It's this quality that makes her an excellent blogger. Axxx

BacktoBodrum wrote 9 years ago:

Ayak tells it like it is, no polishing or bragging. I like her matter of fact style that comes from the heart straight to the page. I'm a keen follower of her blog and miss it when she's away.Her positive attitude which she hangs on to when all manner of things go wrong is very admirable. A very sassy lady.

Jack Scott wrote 9 years ago:

I've always loved the way Ayak tells it as it is - no flannel, no dressing up, no Vaseline on the lens. I know life can be tough but her love of Mr A and their little village shines through like a beacon of hope for Shirley Valentines everywhere. Ayak is no whinging ‘VOMIT’ (as I have described in the past). Her life is the real deal, take it or leave it. Fabulous!

Hilary Sklar wrote 9 years ago:

I love reading Ayak's blog and her writing which is an inspiration to many of us trying to make lives for ourselves in this wonderful (but occasionally confusing) country. Ayak has a way of writing as if each and every reader were a special and valued friend.

Erica wrote 9 years ago:

I think everyone who has written above my post...has said it all......"GREAT READ" I always look forward to read what is happening in Ayak's life with her husband and village life. You couldn't get more real with her adventures.....Just fab! Hope this spring maybe to meet up with Ayak, I feel as I know her well through her posts.

Deniz wrote 9 years ago:

Lovely essay, Ayak! It's been a treat reading about your experiences on your blog. I think you've got some salient tips here for others that are thinking of relocating; at first it seems easy to stick to expat circles, but there's so much more to be seen and so many wonderful people to meet when one gets out among the locals!

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